By Ian GormelyWith Bromst, Dan Deacon achieved a near-perfect balance between introspective electro-acoustics and party-starting jams. It's no surprise, then, that his follow-up takes both elements of his eclectic sound further than ever before. Splitting the LP in two halves, side one follows in the footsteps of Bromst. The flipside is the four-part "USA" suite. A more textured, meditative approach, its peaks and valleys, according to Deacon, match those of the A-side. But its ambitious scope sets it apart from the rest of the album while simultaneously magnifying the "more of the same" vibe of the record's front half. By no means a washout, America is sure to please old fans and appeal to new ones. But by separating his musical personalities into two neat piles, Deacon stopped short of creating a truly epic record. We'll have to settle for just a pretty great one instead.
The record is separated into two distinct halves: more pop-oriented tracks on the A-side and the four-part "USA" suite on the B-side. Why not simply release them as two EPs? I wanted to write a longer form piece and I wanted it to be on an album. I didn't want it to be a stand-alone thing; I wanted it to exist within the context of another set of songs. And because of the way vinyl is structured, you can get about 20 minutes per side, it had to be an A-side, B-side kind of deal. Ideally it would have been nice to be in the middle of the record, preceded by a couple of tracks and followed by a couple of tracks so it wouldn't seem so divisional. But because of the limitations of the format, that's how it is. I didn't want to have different versions on the CD and digital versions; I wanted one cohesive release. I think the way the A-side is structured is that it sort of has the same arc as the B-side. If you're listening to the way the sections fall on the A-side, where the intensity is and the build, it's similar to the four movements of "USA," which is the B-side. I think that links them together and makes it more of a cohesive album than two EPs.
You've said you spent more time in the studio on this record than any previous record. Did a lot of material come out of the sessions? It was more that we used the studio as a place to experiment. Normally I use the studio like a camera, as a place to document what we've been doing, and all the experimenting is done prior to the documentation. This time it was a place to workshop things and hash them out.
Was everything recorded in one go or was the "USA" suite recorded separately? We recorded in spurts, but we didn't set aside times for "USA." When we'd bring someone in, we would record every track that person appeared on. Like the violin appears in three tracks, so we recorded Victor [Ruch] over a period of a week or so and knocked out his parts in "USA," "Lots" and "Pretty Boy."
You're not the one playing these instruments. How do you communicate what you want from the players? We give them sheet music and they play from sheet music.
Do you write that yourself? Yeah, it's what I went to college for. I used to do it all by hand, so I never learned a computer program, but it's been years and years since I did it by hand and now I've been slowly learning this program, Finale. Converting it from MIDI, because I write it on this program, Reason, on a piano roll, and converting that to sheet music on my notation program, there's all these glitches and going in and tweaking it, and its always riddled with errors ― I just wish I never stopped doing it by hand. But the computer is a medium for me. I don't play piano, but a lot of composers will sit at the piano and hash out ideas there. But the computer is my medium, in that regard. That's my main method for getting sounds out of my head.
Does it come out the way it sounds in your head? It always sounds better coming out of a person. I'd say nine times out of ten it's always better to have a human being playing it. There are certain parts I keep on the computer and don't have played on a synth because I want them to be that way. I want them to be precise; I want them to be without variables. Even if you tell someone to play the same note at the same volume five times in a row it's going to have a different attack and a different delay ― it's not going to fall exactly on the beat. Human nature is awesome and beautiful, but so is the opposite. It's the juxtaposition of the two that I like to work with.